I am so perpetually sleep-deprived that it takes a very special book to keep me up past my bedtime. I started "Between Shades of Gray" after putting the kids to bed one night and didn't put it down again until I'd finished the whole thing hours later. A work of historical fiction that reads like the most horrifying true story, this book revolves around Lina, a 15-year-old girl living with her family in Lithuania in 1941. One night her home is invaded by Soviet officers, her family is split up, and Lina, her mother, and her younger brother are forced into a six-week journey via a crowded, filthy train to a work camp in Siberia. Lina is an artist, and throughout her many months in the work camp she secretly draws pictures and sends them into the world via fellow prisoners or townspeople, hoping they will somehow find their way to her father in his own prison camp.
In her afterward, author Sepetys reveals that she herself is the child of a Lithuanian refugee, which makes this book all the more moving to read. I found it beautifully written and was embarrassed at how little I knew of the history of what happened to the Baltic States. "Between Shades of Gray" is showing up on a lot of people's lists as a front-runner for one of the 2012 YA book awards, and I know I'll be rooting for it.